Auditory Hallucination: A Review

Auditory hallucinations (AH) are experiences in which a person hears voices, sounds, or music that other people cannot hear. Such experiences can range from simple sounds to complex conversations. AH has been reported by people with a wide range of mental health problems, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders. AH has also been reported in healthy individuals, and in some instances, is associated with religious experiences. This review provides a summary of current research on AH, including epidemiology, etiology, assessment, and treatment.


AH is a relatively common phenomenon, occurring in 4-15% of the general population and up to 70% of people with schizophrenia (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014). AH is more common in people with mental health problems than in the general population (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014). There is some evidence that AH is more common in certain demographic groups, including older adults, those with lower educational attainment, and women (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014).


AH can result from a variety of causes, including structural or functional changes in the brain, psychological factors, or substance use (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014). Structural or functional changes in the brain may be due to an underlying neurological disorder such as dementia, epilepsy, head trauma, or stroke (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014). Psychological factors associated with AH include trauma, stress, and mental illness (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014). Substance use is also associated with AH, particularly alcohol and stimulants (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014).


In order to accurately assess and diagnose AH, a comprehensive evaluation of the individual’s medical history, psychological and social functioning, and current symptoms is necessary (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014). It is important to consider potential organic causes of AH, such as neurological disorders, head trauma, and substance use (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014). Additionally, the individual’s mental health status should be assessed to determine if there is an underlying psychiatric disorder (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014).


Treatment of AH typically involves a combination of pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014). Pharmacological interventions may include the use of antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers, and/or antidepressants (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014). Psychotherapeutic interventions may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, supportive therapy, and/or family therapy (Kirkpatrick et al., 2014).


AH is a relatively common phenomenon that can be experienced by people with or without mental health problems. AH can be caused by a variety of factors, including neurological disorders, psychological factors, and substance use. Accurate assessment and diagnosis of AH is essential for developing an effective treatment plan. Treatment typically involves a combination of pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions.


Kirkpatrick, B., McNiel, D. E., Binder, R. L., & Spaulding, W. D. (2014). Auditory hallucinations: An updated review of the literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 34(5), 376-389.

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